To sail and frolic around Fiji’s 332 pristine tropical islands and 522 smaller islets, invokes images of crystal-clear ocean waters, and gently swaying palm trees, but for many, is a mere pipe dream…
But to sail on a 52′ yacht owned by your very good friends from long ago is an incredible opportunity and one not to be missed, and exactly what I indulged in for a fleeting moment in 2015!
Sail Away, Sail Away, Sail Away…
Fully provisioned at Denarau, it was finally time to set out on the long-awaited sail…
Day 1 to 3 – Musket Cove (Malolo Lailai Island)
After a 12NM sail slightly northwest of Denarau, we arrived at a gorgeous little spot, which is fairly protected – always important to have a good night’s sleep on a boat.
Afternoon sea breezes usually calm down here by mid-afternoon, so a good night’s sleep is possible.
A tiny airstrip sees light planes come and go a couple of times a day on this small dot in the Pacific Ocean. If a light plane isn’t for you, then why not take the high-speed boat from Denarau Island?
At low tide, picturesque surroundings reveal shallow and accentuated turquoise waters, which become a deeper blue the further out you go – just gorgeous.
After sailing on a boat, island walks to stretch your legs are a must here. So take a walk around this small island (it’s not too far) or for a good workout, try the hills.
This island also offers snorkelling, reef walking, and water and wind sports.
There are many secluded beaches to get away from other tourists but be warned, this is a child-friendly island so many children grace the whole of the island – skinny dip at your own peril!
An expensive grocery store is open on the island from 08:00-20:00hrs but if you’re prepared to pay around AUD$10 for a 200g packet of chips (crisps), then go for it. Sadly, my budget doesn’t allow for this type of extravagance.
As the wind is blowing around 30Knots today, only ventured to shore for a quick walk. This managed to end up in meeting other yachties with an invitation for Sundowners later at the bar – who needs an excuse?
Speaking of bars, there’s a barge called Cloud 9 out on a reef a couple of miles from this anchorage. Surrounded by turquoise water, apparently, it’s a two-level floating platform with an internationally stocked bar. There’s also an Italian wood-fired pizzeria out there.
You can either dinghy to this bar or catch a boat from Musket Cove, arriving in style to buy some very expensive drinks. Cloud 9 lives out there in the sea permanently. Once you’re out there, water sports are also on offer, as is more drinking.
The rule is if you visit an inhabited island, you must visit the appointed village headman (chief) first for the Sevusevu acceptance into the Fijian village. You must bring Waka (Kava: a mildly narcotic drink made by mixing the powdered root of the pepper plant with water).
Once you meet the chief and he chants a little blessing that you cannot understand, of course, you’re free to anchor at the island and walk where ever you wish.
These days, you need to bring at least Waka worth USD$20 a bottle. Something to keep in mind if you’re cruising around Fiji for a while visiting many islands whilst receiving many blessings. This could become very expensive, very quickly.
Apparently, drinking Waka gives a numb sensation around the mouth, lips, and tongue; and a sense of relaxation. Waka has been a tradition on many islands for an age. I did try some, although I had no sensation of any kind, whatsoever – perhaps I didn’t drink enough?
Day 4 to 5 – Robinson Crusoe Island (Likuri Island)
About a 17NM sail from Musket Cove (south of Denarau) and although a low-key resort island, you can easily circumnavigate this flat island on foot in about half an hour. Of course, there’s still a bar here – there’s always a bar.
Although this island’s original name is Likuri, many of you will have only heard its recent name: Robinson Crusoe Island.
This name stems from 1651 when a sailing boat was wrecked on a nearby reef. The captain and his cat took refuge on the island. Coincidently, the cat’s name was Friday (not a good omen). And so, the story of Robinson Crusoe was born.
A sailing superstition: it is bad luck to leave port on a Friday. Nothing is mentioned about leaving port with a cat named Friday though!
Cultural show on Robinson Crusoe Island
The cultural show on Wednesday and Saturday nights (FJD$25 meal + show), is definitely worth watching.
Not only for the mesmerising island dancing but more for the exciting fast-paced fire dancing…
…which is quite spectacular.
It’s a treat with male and female dancers partaking in Polynesian, Tahitian, Melanesian, and other island dances.
Fascinating to watch these skilled talented fire dancers and quite hypnotic.
Many Australians stay on this island but also on show nights, tourists are ferried in from Nadi or surrounding islands.
If you feel like splashing out, check in to the eco-cultural budget resort.
I’m not sure about the cost but it’s supposed to be pretty good.
Day 6 to 8 Back to Denarau
Small rolling seas whilst sailing the 22NM back from Robinson Crusoe to Denarau, although a light breeze made the sail very pleasant.
Not anchored even 10 minutes outside of the marina, we hear a Pan Pan call from a yacht, which is sitting on a reef.
Not a good place to be, especially with a falling tide.
After small dinghies tried to help without any luck and no power boats offering to help (the marina is full of them), we decided to weigh anchor. Motored out to see if we could pull the boat off the reef.
Almost got there when we saw a tinny (small aluminium boat for non-Australian readers) manage to drag the boat off the reef.
Photo: Tehani-li underway
Not very comforting to know that if you are out there in the same situation, larger boats wouldn’t come to your rescue. Not the rule of the sea either.
Day 9 – Rurago Bay (Waya Island)
After the stopover at Denarau for more supplies, set sail again for an easy 35NM sail in a westerly direction and bound for Rurogo Bay, Wayasewa (Waya) Island.
This island is part of the Yasawa Group archipelago and our playground for the next 5 days.
Lovely light breezes and at last, the sun decided to come out and play!
Map: Sailing the Yasawa Group
Six main islands and numerous smaller islets form the Yasawa group, which is volcanic in origin and very mountainous. With peaks ranging from 250 to 600 meters high, there are some majestic vistas and backdrops when sailing past.
This is the island where we’re expected to arrive bearing gifts of Waka and then to be blessed in return by the chief. Taking tea and cake with the locals in the village is very lovely.
Gorgeous walks on this island.
Enjoy a long stroll right across the other side for more spectacular views…
…and meeting some very cheeky locals.
Day 10 – Blue Lagoon (Nanuya Sewa Island)
Another lovely morning sail of about 25NM from Rurago Bay to the gorgeous and famous Blue Lagoon.
Most of the islands in Fiji boast a resort of some sort…
…on almost every beach with activities, spas, and much more.
The Nanuya Resort is quite small and runs totally on solar power I believe – definitely a good thing.
What doesn’t look great is the fake grass along the bar restaurant and running along the waterfront pathways to the resort – a tad tacky.
Day 12 – Natuvalo Bay (Navitis Island)
A 15NM sail from the Blue Lagoon sees us anchored in beautiful Natuvalo Bay. Although the wind abated, it is still overcast and quite chilly.
Only an overnight stay here as suddenly, time is chugging away and I don’t have many days left.
Day 13 – Kanu Passage (Naviti Island)
A short lovely 5NM sail to the passage between Barefoot Manta Island and Naviti Island for a snorkel in the afternoon with Manta Rays, sees us anchoring in Drawaqa for a couple of hours.
The Rays are very famous here and religiously arrive to feed between May to October, on the plankton-rich waters in this channel – about 2 hours after high tide.
We don our wetsuits and take the dinghy to the spot, which is easy to find as there are already a few dinghies dotting the surface with snorkellers in the water.
Excited, I jumped in and tried to swim to the Manta Rays – impossible against the strong current.
Deciding to motor upstream of the Rays and jump back in, it isn’t long before both rays gracefully glide by – incredible!
Both came very close and are not scared at all. I’ve seen larger black Rays in Australia’s Whitsunday Islands although today’s are much smaller and of a greyish colour. Still, very beautiful and majestic – so humbling to be so close to these wild creatures and very memorable.
After some amazing snorkelling and zipping back to Tehani-li, the skipper and crew had to free up the anchor as it became tangled in the reef.
Motor-sailed the 10NM to Yalobi Bay (Wayasewa Island) and anchored for the night, which is a gorgeous quiet bay and anchorage with a tiny local village along the shore. A quick walk to stretch the legs before dinner, drinks, and settling in for another lovely evening.
Day 14 – Denarau again
As I fly back to Australia for the return UK journey tomorrow, sadly, the skipper sets sail for the 30NM back from Tokato to Denarau in a light breeze and shrouded sullen overcast day.
With a flat sea, the sail is smooth and not a bumpy ride at all and quite a relaxing sail for my last day out.
Sadly, it is finally time to say a heartfelt goodbye to my good friends and the gorgeous Tehani-li, which is their home for around ten years now.
Had such a great time catching up and the hospitality is always wonderful. I nick-named Tehani-li the Boatel as she sees a constant stream of visitors from around the world staying onboard.
After a last quick coffee and Sushi lunch at Lulu’s caught the local bus into Nadi.
Buses here provide a great service, usually running on time and cheap. A few Fijian dollars will get you a bus from the town centre to the airport.
The Duty-Free shopping at Nadi’s airport is expensive and limited, which may be a result of the current renovations.
Finally, the Virgin plane took off, not too late and now on my way to the UK via Australia.
A very long trip ahead of about 37 hours door-to-door. Hopefully, this trip won’t be as bad as the Cathay Pacific journey of 52+ hours door-to-door!
Looking forward to the new travel chapter and adventure around Europe in Reg (motorhome) for a while, I hope.
If you’re also interested in reading more sailing stories, check out my Caribbean posts.